The new class war and the polarisation of the United States

New books examine the collapse of consensus and why US society is divided on key issues

Protesters staging a die-in outside the courthouse. Members of PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm staged a rally and die-in outside New Yorks Southern District Federal Court in White Plains. Photograph: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty

Protesters staging a die-in outside the courthouse. Members of PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm staged a rally and die-in outside New Yorks Southern District Federal Court in White Plains. Photograph: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty

In his traducement of norms, Donald Trump invites us to view him as an aberration. And there’s succour in this: the prospect of restored decorum after the orange comet sputters. But what if Trump is endogenous to America’s political system – a “rational actor” observing “the logic of polarisation?” This is altogether more inculpatory, not to mention disconcerting – waylaid by his ego, Trump has proved a poor demagogue; what if a competent one comes along?

“We collapse systemic problems into personalised narratives, and… cloud… understanding,” writes Vox co-founder Ezra Klein. In Why We’re Polarized he applies “systems thinking” to a US political firmament that selects for divisiveness. The result is riveting, revelatory, but also slippery – a specimen of the malaise it diagnoses.

The Irish Times
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